When the authorities came with their little piece of paper telling us we had to leave Anatevka, the place we called our home all our lives, we had to sell whatever we could and take only what we needed on our journey to the promised land they call America.
Instead of reclining in my rocking chair and reading to the children, poor old Tevye is slumping on this tree stump talking to himself about his misery.
It’s not as though I’m suffering alone. You can hear the muttering and sobbing down the road as our little band of refugees sloshes through the mud toward an uncertain future.
Look what has become of my family. Their clothes are already tattered and their faces sooty from the dust kicked up during the days of walking. My Golde has the strength of an ox, not to mention the disposition, but she will not protest in front of the children. That bag she’s shifting from one shoulder to the other holds all our remaining clothes. Her voice carries over the racket of our little multitude and pierces the air like a shrill bird.
“Come along children,” she screeches. “We’ve got to catch up to your father to make sure he doesn’t make off with all my pots and pans.”
When I think about Golde and her pots and pans rattling on the old stove I can almost taste her cabbage borscht. The memory just makes me hungry, and the pots and pans don’t satisfy me. What they do is weigh down the cart.
I’m so exhausted I’d fall off this stump if I closed my eyes for a second. We can’t afford to rest, though, with the sky darkening. About the only thing that would make matters worse would be for it to rain before we find shelter. Should I bother the Almighty with a request as trivial as keeping my family dry? No, there are more serious questions to ask.
“Dear Lord, was everything else in the world going so smoothly that You decided it was time to play some mischief on your old friend Tevye? Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like attracting Your attention; it’s just that it might be more fun to play with someone else for a change. Why not pick on poor Rothschild? He wouldn’t mind an edict from the authorities to leave his home, he has enough houses. He could just move from one chateau to another. Rothschild probably wouldn’t even have to pack his bags, someone would pack them for him, or he could use the clothes he leaves at the other houses.”
“But who am I to question Your infinite wisdom? When You told our father Abraham, ‘Get thee out of this country,’ he left his home. So now You think I’m Abraham. I’m flattered, believe me, but it wouldn’t have been too upsetting if You thought less of me and let my family stay in Anatevka.”
“You are the Master of the Universe. I don’t even have a home to master. The mayor, the cousin of mules, Ivan Poperilo, is now living in my house.”
“All right, I know it’s a tradition for Jews to wander. It’s been passed from generation to generation, from father to son, or, in my case, daughters. Without tradition, life is as shaky as -- ah; this is one custom I think I could do without. I know, I know. I should put my faith in You and trust that all is for the best. But how can it be for the best that poor old Tevye should have to take his wife and children and all he can carry and move from his home?”
Do you think God is listening to me? As if He has nothing more important to do than listen to my problems.
This excerpt is from Mitchell Bard’s new novel, After Anatevka – Tevya Goes to Palestine